I’m not against naked people. Well, not as often as I’d like to be.
But I think we have a problem. At least, if this keeps up, we will. YouTube flagged Robin Thicke’s video for “Blurred Lines” (which contains topless women in nude underwear gyrating with a fully suited Robin Thicke) for obscenity. YouTube initially flagged Justin Timberlake’s video for “Tunnel Vision” (which contains topless women in nude underwear gyrating with a fully suited Justin Timberlake) for obscenity, but then it decided it could stay, because it was art.
I am somewhat unclear on what sets the two apart. Sure, “Blurred Lines” has some uncomfortable lyrics — worse than “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” which is saying something. But just staring at the videos, it’s hard to see much of a difference, other than it seems to be a little colder where the “Tunnel Vision” video was filmed. This hardly seems like a fair standard for determining what is and isn’t art. Or maybe it’s the fact that at one point there are some laser trapezoids, and nothing says art like laser trapezoids?
But it’s not just the double standard for the videos. It’s the fact that both have women gyrating around with Objectification cranked up to Maximum Levels, and we still think this is somehow artsy. It’s 2013, we realize? Have we not exhausted the artistic possibilities of the nude female form? We’ve done every permutation. Nude females in shells being blown to shore. Nude females lunching sur l’herbe with men in suits. Nude females that look like “an explosion in a shingle factory.” Heck, as a Grantland writer pointed out, the same Images Projected Onto Ladies trick from “Tunnel Vision” happened on that Pink Floyd poster that was, for a time, in every That Guy’s college dorm room. At this point, you really have to bring something else to the table, like clothed cats.
I realize that “art” has been an excuse to get attractive people to remove their clothes since time immemorial. “No,” Michelangelo said, taking your coat. “Uh, this is, really what this is, Marco, it’s a commentary on the Biblical story of David, and future generations will praise it for the uh, strong clean lines of its composition, if you could just disrobe now, thank you.” But at least this kind of objectification used to cut both ways. Now the vast majority of mainstream nudes are females, often right next to clothed fellows, as though that weren’t already trite and overdone when Manet was doing it.
Just to point out the double standard, I attempted to codify What Is And Isn’t Art in a handy flowchart, in case you were thinking of making a video or taking a picture of something. Click to enlarge!
Look, it is 2013. Can’t we do something different? This leaves a bad taste in your mouth, no matter how catchy the song.